One of the greatest assets to any Student Pastor is the school system that is all around them. Although relationships can sometimes be difficult to forge, there is always a way for a well-thought-out, and well-intentioned minister of the gospel to earn a place of trust which will yield great fruit down the road. The bottom line here is that if you are going to be an effective Student Pastor, you have to be actively engaged in the schools. We are, after all, fisher’s of men, and the halls of our school are teeming with students who are grasping for anything that will offer meaning, purpose, and belonging to their life. What they don’t know is that Jesus will provide all of that and infinitely more if they will surrender their lives to Him.
One of the many in-roads to schools that should be considered is the football program. As a Student Pastor, I was engaged with many of the sports programs in our local schools, but the football programs were unique opportunities in that they offered a window of influence to a great number of students and families each week. Where many other sports will have 15-20 students on a team, football programs sometimes have close to 100 students involved with the program, which offers a great platform of influence!
Here are a few ways that you can make practical and effective use of the football programs around you.
- Meet with the school administration and coaches and ask how you can serve the football program. Many schools have athletic programs that are severely underfunded and are in great need of assistance. I don’t think that you should use all of your budget to fund the football program, but there are things that you can do to partner with a program and help them meet some of their own felt needs. The key here is listening to the coach and the administration to find out what their greatest needs are. It is important that you offer helps that will be meaningful to the team and the school as you are beginning this relationship.
- Offer your time either through being the team chaplain, or even through leadership talks with the team. In my own experience, leadership talks soon turn into opportunities for the gospel. I have even had a coach, after a year of leadership lessons, REQUEST that I begin highlighting the scriptures more in the leadership lessons. This was at a campus that was previously a “closed campus”. Over the course of 2 years, a campus that was closed to any relationship with a religious organization was asking me to talk about Jesus! You can do this too!
- Offer to host meals and banquets. You may not be able to host every pregame meal, but you can rally enough Moms to cook for at least a couple of pregame meals! These are great times to get to know players, and coaches while you are building relationships. Also, offer your church facility for end of season banquets free of charge. I tried to always pay for the meal, drinks, and dessert, but if all you can do is open up your facilities for free, that will go a long way with most programs! Make sure that you have the space spotless, line up a sound guy to take care of any of their media needs, put out black table cloths and roll out the red carpet! You want to spoil these teams as much as possible because you want to continue to earn a place in their program.
- Show up at the games! Whether you are in the stands with students and parents, or on the sideline with the team, your presence speaks volumes to the students and families at the game!
These are just a few things that you can do, but the possibilities are endless. The bottom line is that you want to do all that you can for these teams in order that you can earn a place of influence in the program. As you become more and more a part of the program, you will gain increasing influence that you will be able to leverage for the gospel!
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist